note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Beverly Creasey
FROZEN (by Bryony Lavery) is a metaphor for the endless emptiness a mother feels after the loss of a child. Itís also a symbol for the dead, dysfunctional part of the brain, postulates the forensic psychiatrist in the play, which, if properly developed, allows a human being to make connections with other human beings. And, says the shrink, itís the terra incognita of research on the subject of serial killers. What the play does so eloquently is to thaw a motherís heart through forgiveness, reach a serial killerís core through compassion and make the scientific case for illness, not evil, as the genesis of such depravity.
Three figures share the stage, set (by Richard Chambers) with three chairs in a great expanse of snow---or perhaps itís a vast desert of white sand---under a canopy of multiple, small window panes on a grid. When the play begins, the window panes let in measured amounts of light, depending on the speaker. At first the three (mother, shrink and killer) speak individually. Then they begin to interact with each other, two at a time.
The level of pain and suffering is so immediate that you can barely rise from your seat at intermission. Everyone is moving in slow motion. I try to avoid the epidemic of forensic criminal science shows in prime time television simply because I want an undisturbed nightís sleep. So Iíve been asking myself why anyone would want this experience in the theater. The answer is that New Repís production is breathtaking, the acting superb and the material, although horrifying, isnít sensationalized like it is on television.
Director Adam Zahler elegantly shades in the areas of the play not colored in by the script: small touches of gestural language, like the killerís flinch at meeting the bereft mother, a surprising expression of fear, given his success at terrifying a whole county. Bates Wilder gives a wrenching performance as the killer, a man so abused as a child that he has become the abuser as an adult. Wilderís ability to convey this manís simple, flawed reasoning makes his lack of affect even more chilling.
Nancy E. Carroll is so skilled at holding back the motherís emotions that when they flood through, your heart will have jumped into your throat. When she addresses her daughterís stuffed lion, you will be unable to swallow for the lump which has lodged there. Adrianne Hewlett as the consummate professional has her own journey as well, and itís not to a happy place when she realizes that she, too, is ďlivingĒ constantly in grief and despair. Karen Perlowís lighting, as much as the dialogue, defines the action and Jeffrey Alan Jonesí sounds echo the pain so ingeniously that all your senses are drawn into the story.